It’s so easy to be happy and openhearted when my body feels good. In Toronto, my body mostly felt bad.
When I was a kid, mom and Aunt Norah wrote back and forth a lot. I got to read Norah’s letters, which were usually full of reports about her various ailments. I vowed that I would never turn into my aunt, that I would never let what’s wrong dominate my conversations. But I feel the need to address the pain I felt last week, as a way to open to all of life.
I had already been cold for ten days or so, and Toronto’s deep freeze sent me over the edge. I was terrified of being cold, colder, coldest. “Will it hurt? How long will it hurt?” I don’t know what happened to the mountain man in me. He was gone. Instead, there was a guy who developed this dressing ritual every time a door was about to open onto the outside world. The neck of my coat totally zipped up. Toque pulled way down. Scarf so tight around my nose and mouth that it brought up thoughts of asphyxiation. Mitts struggling to fit way inside the sleeves of my jacket. Neal waiting patiently.
Sometimes our forehead-burning street travels brought us to more subway time. I loosened the scarf so it wrapped around my neck but the rest of the arrangements stayed put. Mitts and toque fully engaged on the train. As we jostled our way from station to station, all I could think of was diving under the covers of my hotel room bed. No expansive mind. No lovingkindness aimed at my fellow passengers (well, very little of that). Just me, me, me. How very unBuddhist of me.
And then there was my stomach. For most of our trip, the nausea came and went and came again. My diet was basic – microwavable rice, bananas, dry bagels, applesauce and herbal tea. Neal had omelets and seafood fettuccini and beer. I was drooping with a lack of calories and flavour. Dizzy and roiling and flat. Oh vacation, wherefore art thou?
At the Allan Gardens plant conservatory, I sat. At the Royal Ontario Museum, I sat. Neal boogied around, taking lots of cool photos. I sat. I tried to be present with what life was offering me, to see the pain as being no worse than pleasure. But I couldn’t. I rarely could talk to Jody. I missed the beauty of the flowers, of the vendors offering their food at the St. Lawrence Market, even of the Buddhist statues at the museum. I pretty much missed it all. Sad some more.
On Sunday afternoon, we were leaving on the train for London. My nausea had disappeared and the temperature had warmed to 0 degrees Celsius (32 degrees Fahrenheit). How strange.
I wonder what life wants me to learn from all this. Right now, I don’t know. I’m open to an epiphany. Come on down.